Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

TOP STORY >> Wing Ding brings in major-league event

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

A major-league sporting event is coming to Jacksonville’s Wing Ding Festival.

No, it’s not football, baseball or even lacrosse. But it is called the fastest-growing sport in America.

It’s competitive eating.

Denise Goforth, a spokesman for the city’s annual festival, told the advertising and promotion commission on Monday night that the festival is contracting with Major League Eating to have a competitive wing-eating contest in 2010.

Goforth said this year the festival will run a two-division eating contest as a prelude to the professional event.

“We have a category for amateurs and one for celebrities and the military. We have two wings out here at the air base that we’d love to have eat wings,” she quipped.

The A&P gave the festival $10,000 earlier this year for entertainment and this is the route organizers chose. The festival is increasing prize money for the cooking competition, adding to the eating competition with prize money and bringing back Radio Disney.

“That still leaves us about $4,000 for other acts,” Goforth said. “We hope the eating competition will put us on the state, regional and national map.”

The MLE is the sports franchise that oversees all professional competitive-eating events and competitive-eating television specials on ESPN and other networks. It lists its mission as providing a safe environment for all events while also seeking to create a dynamic and enjoyable fan experience.

Among the MLE professional eaters are Takeru Kobayashi, Joey Chestnut, Sonya Thomas and Patrick Bertoletti, whose records include 58 bratwurst in 10 minutes, 66 Nathan’s Famous hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes, 103 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes, 65 hardboiled eggs in less than seven minutes and 21 pounds of grits in 10 minutes.

MLE events, according to a company press release, are watched by millions of fans.

Alderman Reedie Ray, who is a commission member, is excited about the idea of a competitive eating contest, but, then of course among his many awards and honors is first place in a central Arkansas pie-eating contest.

This year’s Wing Ding festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 3.

In other A&P business, the commission:

Tabled a request by Ron Newport of Keep Jacksonville Beautiful to approve the first installment, about $4,000, on a 25-foot soaring sculpture by John Deering that the organization wants to place on city hall grounds. The total cost of the sculpture will come to more than $50,000.

The commission had legal concerns about purchasing the sculpture without going out for bids, and was also concerned that there was not enough in the budget to support the request.
Newport said that there are provisions that allow organizations to bypass the bidding requirement when it comes to art projects.

He and the commission will discuss it again at the September meeting when the city attorney will have the answers about the bidding.

In the financial report by Cheryl Erkel of the city’s finance department, the commissioners heard that the prepared- food tax is down about 2 percent for the year and the hotel-room tax collections are down about 17 percent.

June’s taxable hotel/motel receipts of $374,258 were the worst in June in five years of collecting the tax. In 2008, which was an outstanding year for the local hotel/motel industry, taxable receipts came in at $508,390.

The city’s portion for June came to $7,400 for the month and about $39,000 for the first half of the year.

The city’s restaurants posted taxable receipts of $3.27 million for June, down about $80,000 from June 2008. The city’s portion came to about $66,000 for June and $384,000 for the year.

Half the amount collected is earmarked for the parks and recreation department. The remaining amount is used by the commission to promote and market Jacksonville and various events in the city.

The commission approved spending $9,000 with the Sells Agency, the marketing firm the city hired to help promote Jacksonville, to develop an advertising and promotion Web site.

Mike Sells told the commissioners that most major cities have three Web sites—the city Web site for its residents, a chamber Web site for business and an A&P site for visitors and tourists, which all interlink with each other.

The commission also ap-proved the chamber’s plans for a multidivisional Christmas lighting contest. Awards will be given to the best display in the residential, church, commercial and government categories. Those interested in participating must complete an application by Nov. 20 and be ready for judging by Dec. 7.

For more information or applications, call the chamber at 982-1511.